tv This Week in Northern California PBS February 26, 2011 1:00pm-1:30pm PST
captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund the nationwide labor battle picks up steam in california with intense debate over pensions for public workers. a new spin on legal challenges. proposition eight. the obama administration calls the defense of marriage act unconstitutional. the state's deteriorating awater management system may be heading to catastrophe unless bold steps are taken. and "we were here" takes a look back at the aids years in san francisco. all coming up next.
good evening. i'm scott schaefer setting in for belva davis. welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me are dan brekke, josh richman, legal and political affairs reporter for the oakland tribune and carla marinucci, of "the san francisco chronicle." quite a kerfuffle in wisconsin, indiana, ohio. what's happening? what are the unions upset about? what does it mean for california? >> it has been called a tsunami
on its way to california. the whole issue broke open this week. a lot of people wondering could california face the same kind of protests and action? this is all about money, power, and politics. the unions, particularly public employee unions are heart of the democratic party. they provide money, man power, and in states like wisconsin, we saw a republican governor challenge them openly. try try end collective bargaining. a lot of california protesters are heading to wisconsin as we speak, with concern could this catch on here in california. >> the concerns, i mean, in wisconsin you have the whole issue of collective bargaining. you also have the other legitimate concerns about the can we sustain? >> that's right. here in california, the legislative analysts have said right now, $136 billion is the unfunded liability in california. in the next ten years, as much
as $500 billion. this is a concern. governor jerry brown says it's a concern. he's trying to wrestle with the state budget. we now have $26 billion in red ink. republicans in sacramento are holding back on any support for this budget plan, saying we want first some kind of pension reform in addition to regulatory reform and other things, but this is going to be sort of the heart of the battle up in sacramento. it has to be addressed. everybody says that. california is not wisconsin. that said, we've got a democratic-controlled legislature and a governor who has been very, very friendly to organized labor. >> is that a new wrinkle put in this week by our partisan, little hoover commission. >> that threw another wrench in the whole thing. you're absolutely right, josh. the little hoover commission, talked about a suggested
freezing pensions and lowering benefits for current employees. that created a firestorm up there in sacramento. >> we should say, nonpartisan, but members of the current commission have been appointed by governor schwarzenegger. >> some of the reforms suggested, see, we need to get this under control right now. governor brown has talked about some reformed, like a 401(k) kind of proposal. he a pension reform plan when he ran for governor, but the fact is, he hasn't come out with any specifics and the republicans want it as part of their solution. >> do the issues of the pension problems which everybody is talking about, here in san francisco, we have jeff adaci, who is going to make another run on this. are the pension problems really tracking so perfectly with collective bargaining? there was a bill introduced in the legislature today which would attack it.
>> that's right. it follows wisconsin. republican legislators have put it up in sacramento. self republican legislators have followed and said they are standing with wisconsin on this, trying to push the envelope here. on the issue of collective bargaining, this was an issue when meg whitman said that jerry brown was in the pockets of the public employees union, and that ronald reagan was the first to establish collective bargaining for municipal and county employees. from there, it expanded. brown did expand it, no question about it. but this is a line in the sand for public employees unions. >> does jerry brown say i have a machine to balance the budget that doesn't include the pension reform? >> he is talking about $12 million in cuts and he went to a
budget committee meeting this week, first time ever a governor has done so, and what was described in the question time sort of session with these legislators and some of the republicans said we want pension reform. look, if i'm -- are you willing to do that? let's talk about it, put it up there. and immediately some retreated and said, well, we want to hear about -- this is an issue -- the fact is, public polls are showing that write now voters are standing with the unions. the idea of taking away collective bargaining does not sit with most voters, either in wisconsin or california. >> labor is a very powerful force in california. especially teachers union, public employees union. >> nurses association. >> how are they reacting? >> these groups have fwichb millions of dollars to the democratic party. provided tons of man power when it comes to elections and not sitting still in the issue of wisconsin.
there was a demonstration in sacramento. sending people to wisconsin. they feel they have got to stop this train in wisconsin. it's catching on in other states. ohio, indiana, the fact is that california has a different political makeup and very strong unions, but no question, the unions are under pressure to come up with pension reform and they are going to have to come to the table. >> if they don't do it on themselves it will probably be on the ballot. and, josh, a different kind of union story. unions between same hif sex couples, obama administration coming to the conclusion that the defense of marriage act is unconstitutional. they won't defend it anymore. tell us what that means, especially for folks in california. >> what it doesn't mean is there thaw there will be an instantaneous affect on the prop eight. >> remind us. >> it was a constitutional amendment that defined marriage
definetively as one man, one woman. currently under challenge. and a federal judge has found it unconstitutional under a couple of provisions of the 14th amendment. gone to the ninth circuit court of appeals. and they have bumped a question of legal standing over to the california supreme court, because the state has declined to defend it any further, the proponents would like to do that, but there is some question they are allowed. >> is this related to doma? >> no. doma is a federal statute, and prop eight is at the state level. we have the president of the united states opining that a federal law banning same-sex marriage cannot be constitutionally upheld. and although that is his opinion, it is his legal argument, it's something that some believe the courts may give
some credence to going forward. >> it is still the law. >> it is still the law. the obama administration says it won't defend this law in court anymore against constitutional challenges, it is required to enforce the law until congress repeals it or until the court strikes it down. >> what's happening on that front? anyone coming forward to challenge? >> dianne feinstein within hours or possibly within minutes of the obama administration's announcement, promised to issue law to repeal the defense of marriage act. she said she was against it when it passed. it will be a very interesting debate. >> what about the timing of the obama administration's decision? with everything going on the international scene?
why now? how will this affect california? >> the why now is more of a legal question, although certainly has political overtones. in previous cases, the justice department had defended doma by citing case law, precedence, that directed judges to uphold any law that land these two cass are filed in a federal circuit, a judicial circuit where no such case law exists. and the obama administration decided, and by that ibama and general eric holder, that gay people have a higher standard of scrutiny, and under that test this law won't stand up. >> doma prevents the federal
government from recognizing marriages that might be legal in massachusetts or other states so they can't get any kind of federal benefit to those folks. couples in california who got married legally before prop 8 passed, how does this affect them? can they now sue? >> in fact, some already have, and this could have bearing on that. depending on what happens in these two cases. if doma gets struck down, as the obama administration seems content to let happen, you would see a flood of litigation of same-sex couples that married in various states that allowed it, claiming federal benefits. spousal benefits, tax benefits, whatever. keep in mind that although the obama administration said it won't defend it, congress could, and like i said, with the house and republican hands, there could well be an attorney hired by congress to go into court and defend the law.
>> how much will conservative groups both here and nationally, use this? i saw newt gingrich this week talk about the president being guilty of dereliction of duty, suggesting impeachment might -- >> some people thought this is what did in john kerry in ohio. >> yeah. >> it's been an interesting reaction the past couple of days. yes, a lot of conservatives who have voiced a lot of outrage about this. i think the interview you were referring to, gingrich was saying, if somebody else did this, perhaps it would be grounds for impeachment. that's more of a headline grabber. the reality is that some of the reaction has been a little bit muted on right, and i think that's a result of you're starting to see a younger generation of conservative voters who are not having a problem with this. >> and people want him focusing on the economy as well and don't want him distracted. josh, thanks very much. gay marriage is one of the
issues that doesn't go away. not unlike water, dan brekke, a big study came out this week, looking at the way forward on water. give us the highlights. >> a couple of things going on right now. last week, new state body called the delta stewardship council, issued a first draft report on how to fix everything in the delta. what's everything? number one, give everybody the water they want. every drop. number two, make the delta fish-friendly, forever. sounds like a dream. >> sounds good to me. >> without being flip, of course, the delta is badly, badly damaged from 160 years of having to coexist with us. that is a big problem for the delta. everything we do from starting with the gold rush and sending entire mountainsides down the river, has damaged both the bay
and the delta, and the wild life within it. >> not to be too practical, but how much is it going to cost to fix all of this? >> we'll get to that. just keep your checkbook ready. >> one of the things it didn't do is ask ag, farmers, to give up some of that water. they use far more water than cities do, for example. why did they make that decision? does that hurt their credibility with environmentalists, for example? >> well, i think it's early in the process, and i think -- i mean, it seems like every hot political constitution has a third rail, asking agriculture to give up substantial amounts of water, that's the third rail in the water discussion. but this delta stewardship constitution is one thing that's happened. another very interesting development this week is the public policy institute of california has a panel of world class water people. including a lot of folks from uc
davis who have put out a report, 500 pages. not concerned about forests, they are concerned about water. 500 pages and basically putting forward a new vision for how california water ought to be dealt with. essentially, they want to try to cool everybody down and find some holistic decision that would include -- they actually use this kind of language. reconciliation among the communities that are -- and the interests that are fighting for the water. so there is a big environmental emphasis in the report, but they want to recognize the needs of cities and farm water users and by -- by taking a more understanding approach, digging in less on issues, maybe make it possible. >> i'm sorry. >> maybe make it possible to come to a long-term understanding are we've been hearing so many years, the delta is not sustainable. the heart of the system that we use for water for 25 million
californians. so are we going to hear talk again? any mention about a peripheral canal, it came up last time jerry brown was governor? >> the peripheral canal is not a centerpiece, but it's there in the background. a separate effort called the bay delta conversation plan which is all about developing a peripheral canal or a supertunnel of some kind to take water farther outside the delta, bring it around the delta, and then send it south to the farms and the l.a. area. that is one of these things that both the new state group, the stewardship council and anybody else that wants to mess around with california water will have to contend with. and that's where your money question comes in. the pricing on that little item starts at about $13 billion. and looking at the long-term costs, the natural resources
defense council put out a little item earlier this week where they quoted a price of $35 billion once we get done with everything. >> we have had a pretty good year for water. does that kick the can down the road in terms of politics or the need to deal with this problem? >> well, we're a state that's living paycheck to paycheck, if you will. we're -- we hang on every single storm report, water report. year to year -- california officially still has a drought declaration in place. governor schwarzenegger put in. never lifted and part of that is explicitly because they want to try to create the consciousness of this is the way we have to live now. >> governor schwarzenegger had a water bond of $11 billion, $12 billion. got pulled back. what is the relationship? what does that say about what these folks are recommending? anything? >> what it really says -- that was part of a complex set of
legislation. >> there was pork in there too. >> there was lots of pork. and that was going to make it very difficult to pass. i think the fate of that is yet to be decided, but i think just the difficulty in pushing that forward demonstrates how difficult paying for any of this in the future is going to be. >> dan, thanks very much. it has been 30 years since a mysterious illness began striking gay men in san francisco at an alarming rate. the new documentary "we were here" conveys confusion and loss in the early years of aids. the film opens this week at castro theater in strong. i spoke with filmmaker david wiseman. first, here is a clip. >> aids organizations were just popping up everywhere. i mean, that was -- it's called the san francisco model. i think one of the reasons the san francisco model worked was because. size of san francisco and
because of castro street itself, that there was a center. san francisco. people came here not for career. they came here because they wanted to live here. and when aids came along, the community was sort of inherent in that. all it needed was the aids epidemic to really make it coalesce. whether it was taking care of people's pets in the hospital or bringing them food, everybody wanted to do something. the community came together in an amazing way. politics had never done that. >> david weissman, welcome to the program. >> thank you, scott. nice to be here. >> incredibly. 30 years this year since the first cases of aids started popping up in san francisco. why now? why did you feel this was the
time to tell this story? >> it was actually suggested to me by a former boyfriend, much younger and who had not lived through that period of time and heard me speak of it so much. he suggested the idea to me. i never thought of it on my own. when i did start to think about it i realized enough time had passed that those of us who lived through it would be ready to tell our stories, and more and more interest among young people. there is a moment, a zeitgeist moment. >> take us back to that time. the best of times, the worst of times. there is a celebration of gay freedom just beginning to be felt and the beginning of this terrible epidemic. take us back to the castro neighborhood in that period, the early 1980s? >> it was a very intense time here. the exploration of political power and sexual freedom was a heady mix in san francisco in those years and we were coming
off themusconian milk. i remember the first article in the paper, and i remember that there were clusters of gay men. >> and they didn't know what was causing? >> and i remember thinking, god, it is so weird that this is hitting us it scared a lot of people. and we had no way of knowing how bad it was going to get. >> looking at the film, you see poignant pictures of the young, vibrant men, healthy. and other young men as they develop aids, emaciated and gaunt. i just wonder, what impact do you think that physical change, the lesions, weight loss, had on a community that, you know, placed so much stock in looking good? >> it was devastating. and san francisco experienced
that aspect of the in a more concentrated way almost more than anywhere else. because we had this tune tinny community called the castro. you would walk down the street in the castro and see someone who looked like a sick, old man and you would realize when you got close, this was someone who was 25 years old that you knew. and they were just ravaged by the disease. >> you tell this story through the voices of five people. most of whom are unknown to most folks in san francisco. why five, and why these five? >> i found fairly early on in the process that what worked for me as a filmmaker and what i hoped would work for the audience is a very large story could emerge out of a small number of really well-told personal journeys. and it's hard to -- i mean, these particular five people were kind of people that popped up in my frame of vision at one
point and i thought they would be good for an interview and cumulatively, they tell a really good story and yet through a very personal and intimate kind of journey. >> there is a generational divide in a way over hiv/aids. young people, now coming of age, know about aids mostly through history or maybe they have met someone living with aids. what have you noticed in terms of audiences? how are young people who see this film, how are they reacting? >> i mean, it's been very gratifying. young people are completely blown away by it. and older folks, say how do we get young people to see this? young people will bring their friends. the response from particularly younger gay men, but from all kinds of younger people has been profound? >> what are they saying? >> well, one guy in the screening was almost able to talk, and what came out of his mouth is i am so proud to be part of this community. and they see the images of the
guys on screen and think what would i have done if those were my friends and they were starting to get sick and die? how would i have responded to this? >> what do you hope people get out of this film as they are watching and afterward? >> for those of us who lived through it i hope there is a tremendous sense of validation and beginning of a healing process. it has not been talked about very much. for people who weren't there, whether they are young gay men or school kids in iowa, i hope they get an understanding of the beauty of the way a community can respond in a time of crisis. particularly a community that doesn't have a lot of friends in the world. i think san francisco provided a really extraordinary example of people coming together. >> one of the people there during that time was you, and i there was as well. i'm wondering in the making of this film, did it change the way you looked at that time, now you have perspective and have looked at it through the voices and
stories of these five people? >> it's an ongoing process, yes, it's definitely altering my perceptions. one of the things that's peculiar, is that one of the things, life felt very normal then. you and i would bump into each other. you see pictures of the parades, and it's very celebratory. it's the normalcy and incredible abnormalcy that i find fascinating. >> it's beginning a one-week run at the castro theater tonight. we wish you a lot of luck. >> thank you. >> david weissman. i think we all have a lot of memories from that era. thank you, all, very much for being here. visit kqed.org/thisweek, to